Every year, usually in January, I resolve to tidy up my studio and THROW STUFF OUT! Get rid of my Murder History
Every year, I end up reading through old files, old plans and ideas. I look through old files of pictures and scrapbooks and diaries. Not only my own, but things that belonged to my parents.
But I rarely throw any of it away. I re-file, re-organise or simply move stuff, in boxes, into the loft for ‘Future processing’.
It's hard to let go
I always picture my own sons finding this stuff after I’ve died. Perhaps they fight over it (not who gets it but, rather, who doesn’t).
I open the old files, stuff my mother used to collect; reviews of plays, TV appearances, newspaper cuttings, programmes from my days at RADA, etc.
And then there is always the very early MURDER MYSTERY stuff. From our humble beginnings back in 1990.
It doesn’t seem so long ago to me but whenever one looks back, you realise how much has changed in that time.
The Apple Mac
Promotion is the biggest change.
It seems almost impossible to imagine a time before the humble PC (or Apple Mac in my case).
Everybody has a website or two (or more), everyone is on social media. Everyone spends most of their time looking at screens. But those days BEFORE computers…how did we manage?
We used to print books – designed to look like the Penguin books of old. In order to personalise them, we’d write the name of whoever requested information on a bookmark (remember them?).
It used to work, I think. In fact, it must have done because we did really well in the 1990’s. But it must have taken an age to get information out.
Whereas today, people expect you to get something over to them immediately, back then, people would make an enquiry with a phone call. We’d chat for a while and then post them their book (post!)
But I was quite proud of those little books. And as I scan one in now and enhance it (easily) in Photoshop, I recall how we produced them in the first place.
I owned an Amstrad word processor and I would write scripts, letters, promotional material using its ‘golf-ball’ type.
It made a hell of a noise. Also, it took a long time to print. If I had a lot of scripts to print, I’d set it off and let it run through the night. then I’d worry the neighbours would think there was a war or a gun-fight going on.
Of course, I would send the artwork to the printers to produce the actual books. But the design was all mine (I had worked as an artwork for a printing firm before I left Salisbury for RADA).
Our main image – Murder by Accident – was produced using photocopy machines and ripped illustrations, stuck down with glue. To this, I stuck down the carefully cut out (and in some cases, entirely manufactured) letters – as in a blackmail note.
Add the Red Magic
On top of this, I’d slop some red ink and let it run down the page. The final result became the cover of the book, the bookmark and the ads we’d place in corporate entertainment magazines.
We came up with our logo in the same way. A number of splodges were created, followed by a trickle from gravity, until we got the splurge we have used ever since (incidentally, copied by a number of our rivals at the time, one almost EXACTLY the same)
But what of earlier mysteries?
Every year, as I glance back into this history, I stumble across another mystery. In fact, a REAL mystery inasmuch as I can’t remember where it came from – it may have been my mum’s but it may have been given to me by someone else – and every year, I wonder if it can inspire me in some way to create something new.
It is a book, bundled together like a police file, from 1937 and written by Dennis Wheatley. It is titled; Who Killed Robert Prentice?
Of course, it pre dates video and the typed set up is rather long. The pages then turn into clue-pages, containing various exhibits such as letters (with what look to be real post marks) and cut-up photos, etc. All stored in the sort of little packets that stamps may have been kept in.
Then there is a newspaper tied into the bundle, and hand written letters. It must have been great fun to go through (I’ve never managed to get through the whole thing).
But it has the attention to detail I’v always admired, and try to include in my own mysteries.
I can’t bring myself to chuck it out and I convince myself that one day, I really will do something about it.
In the meantime though, if anyone has any idea as to what it is, please let me know. A small part of me hopes it is a long forgotten antique that is worth millions and that, at last, I can afford to retire.
In the meantime, it’s heading back to the loft for another year.
But if anyone knows what it is, please let me know by dropping me a line (or posting a letter) to: